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March 27, 2021

3 Books for Teens

by MK French 

Earlier this week I featured three books for younger readers and today I have three books for teens. Spring Break and summer are quickly approaching and it is really important to keep kids reading during these school breaks - maybe if more important this year with all the disruptions to school. But the teen years can be a difficult time to keep them engaged with reading outside of school assignments. Hopefully one of these books will spark their interest.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft

Down Comes the Night
March 2021; Wednesday Books; 978-1250623638
audio, ebook, print (400 pages); fantasy
Wren Southerland had lost everything with reckless use of magic in the past, so she is eager to redeem herself when asked to cure a servant at Colwick Hall. Her patient turns out to be Hal Cavendish, her kingdom’s sworn enemy. Hal also came to Colwick Hall for redemption, and the two will have to work together to save their kingdoms.

It's sad that Wren is disgraced after healing an injured captive child that is suspected of being a spy. To compound the error, she disregards orders her aunt the queen gives her, taking off for Colwick Hall in the hopes of securing an alliance for her kingdom and saving face. Hal is the deadliest killer of Vesria and a rising star in their political arena before he disappeared, just as warriors on both sides have. Both Vesria and Danu have used child soldiers as killers in their war against each other, and teach them that emotions, compassion, and mercy are weaknesses that should be stamped out.

As a combat medic, Wren often uses the scientific terms for body parts, and it includes the vessels that are used to channel magic. She definitely thinks like a healer, fixing the damage done to Hal and finding herself unable to kill him outright. This means that she gets to know him, and the creepy Lord Lowry gets more and more sinister. Nothing is what Wren thought it would be, and she relies on her magic and her sense of rightness to move forward, just as Hal wants to pay for his crimes.

The end was tied up neatly, almost too neatly, and some of the change of hearts didn't feel natural to what we know of their characters at all. I let it go, but I think if those potential changes were telegraphed ahead of time this would have been a perfect book.

Buy Down Comes the Night at Amazon

Namesake by Adrienne Young

March 2021; Wednesday Books; 978-1250254399
audio, ebook, print (368 pages); fantasy
Fable is free of her father, but starting over with a crew of her own is far more difficult than she thought. She becomes the pawn of others, and must partner with Holland the notorious gem trader. Fable soon discovers that her mother's secrets are leading to danger for everyone she loves.

Namesake is the second half of the duology started in Fable (read my review and find more fantasy novels to read). We start out right away after the conclusion of the first book. Fable was kidnapped by Zola, who hates her father Saint and wants to use her in a plot to clear his own debts. Things go downhill from there, largely because of things Fable doesn't know. She's never known or been interested in her mother's family, and it never occurred to her to care about who else would want Saint dead. Her focus was only on West and getting back to the Marigold; unfortunately, nothing goes according to plan.

As big a bad guy that Saint seems in book one, Holland isn't any better. She's building an empire and wants to extend into the Narrows and doesn't care who she uses along the way. She has her sights set on Fable, and Fable is once again caught up in others' plans. This makes sense on one hand, because she's not well versed in the bigger world and trade conspiracies after being marooned for four years. On the other, she's being manipulated and in turn, manipulates others. No one is an especially good character, and it doesn't quite sit right with me in this book. 

The end was fast and neat, tying up a lot of loose ends for Fable. She helped, and it was certainly fun to read, but ultimately I felt like something was missing. Maybe because the tension and violence of the first book and the beginning of this one ended in relatively quiet means, but it felt almost anticlimactic. It isn't, it's more that the end is a whimper rather than a bang. The quiet and cold menace that Holland presents is magnified by how much everyone is afraid of her. The soft, gentle ending is quite different from what I expected. Fable definitely deserves that, though. She had such a hard life, a little safety will go a long way. 

Buy Namesake at Amazon

Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Firekeeper's Daughter
March 2021; Henry Holt; 978-1250766564
audio, ebook, print (496 pages); suspense
Daunis Fontaine put her dream of college on hold to look after her mother and brother, so the only bright spot in her life is Jamie, the new recruit on her brother's hockey team. She witnesses a murder, drawing her into the FBI's investigation into a lethal new drug. Daunis agrees, and draws on her knowledge of chemistry and Ojibwe traditional medicine, but the investigation exposes old secrets. An additional concern is that the FBI wants to punish the perpetrators without protecting the victims. Ultimately, Daunis has to figure out how to be a strong Ojibwe woman and protect her community.

Angeline Boulley is a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa, writing about her Ojibwe community in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. She is a former Director of the Office of Indian Education at the U.S. Department of Education. This gives her extensive experience not just with the tribe, but with government agencies and the different motivations that people have when interacting with tribes. The FBI agents care about people in the abstract and are concerned more with getting to the bottom of the drug trade. This leaves Daunis open to scorn and physical dangers when she becomes the informant; her sudden change to being the hockey girlfriend opens her up to slurs and condemnation in addition to her mixed-race status, not being an enrolled member of the tribe, and having a trust fund from her white grandmother. She's used to a good number of the comments, which is sad but too true of those caught between cultures of any kind.

My heart went out to Daunis, who sees the slow hemorrhaging of the tribal community due to drugs and few opportunities. The denigration and attacks on women, a reality that too many face outside of fiction, are present here as well. She suffers so much because of the losses in her family: her father dying when she's young, her parents never being able to get together, her grandfather's death, her uncle's disappearance and death, her grandmother's dementia and locked in state from a stroke, the loss of her best friend. These losses continue to mount as the novel progresses, even as she realizes that her uncle played a bigger role in uncovering the drug ring than she knew. As I read more about Daunis and her life, I grieved with her and cheered on her successes. Her strength isn't one of fighting but of connection. This comes to a head by the close of the novel, one that shows her quiet strength in the face of continued adversity against her and her people. This book grabbed hold of me and refused to let go until the last page.

Buy Firekeeper's Daughter at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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  1. I have been hearing great things about Firekeeper's Daughter. I think it's also being made into a TV show/movie.